"Go get a (virtual) life"

Another article/item that might be useful teaching in the winter term, this addition of “Talk of the Nation: Science Friday” on virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft and stuff like that. I haven’t heard it yet, but my wife (who did hear it) said “hey, you oughta listen to this,” so it’s probably good. Thanks to Bradley Bleck for the link!

A couple more teaching kinds of links

Gee, maybe I am thinking about teaching too much. Of course, I had at one point planned on writing a book about the history of different writing technologies, so both of these links are still quasi Sabbatical Lite like.

  • The Classic Typewriter Page, which I found via boing boing and which is maintained by someone who teaches philosophy at Xavier U. Cool stuff.
  • Johndan’s work/space blog had this cool link here to a site on “The History of The Discovery of Cinematography,” but it appears that that site (not Johndan’s, the other one) is now gone. Well, maybe it’ll be back….
  • From Canada’s Globe and Mail comes “Researchers question school in high-tech age.” Basically, the folks being interviewed here ask what’s the point of the conventional classroom at all when it could all be done electronically. It’s a bit over-the-top, but I do think this passage is largely true:

    “It’s pre-Gutenberg,” says Don Tapscott, futurist, lecturer and author of bestsellers such as “Wikinomics,” laughing as he recalls the assessment he heard from a university president.

    “It’s a prof working from handwritten notes. The students are all writing it down and the prof is writing on a blackboard. The assumption of the printing press is not even a fundamental part of the learning paradigm.”

    Dentists, doctors and other professionals asleep for 100 years would awake, he says, to a world where they would not recognize their jobs, much less perform them. But in education, a teacher could walk into a classroom after a century and get busy.

Syllabi envy (sorta)

This is the first beginning of the school year in 19 years in which I have not had to worry about preparing a syllabus or two or three. It’s kind of strange, though not a completely unwelcome break from the routine of my life. While I’m adjusting to that and pretending to get work done, I thought I’d link to Alex Halavais’ “Two new courses” post, where he posts a couple syllabi for his upcoming term. A couple of thoughts based on my very quick read:

  • I like some of the language that he has in his “Introduction to Interactive Communication” syllabus about what it’s “like” to be a graduate student, and it might be worthwhile for me to lift/rework some of that language for my own graduate teaching.
  • This “Intro to Interactive Communication” syllabus reminds me of the ven diagram experience of rhetoric in an English department versus rhetoric in a communications department/school/program. I took a grad course years ago in modern (e.g., 20th century) rhetorical theory that included a few PhD students from my program, a few from other programs associated with culture studies at Bowling Green State, and, of course, with grad students in communications. Most of the theorist we read overlapped– Richard Weaver, Perlman, Toulmin, Foucault, Burke, etc. But every once in a while, the communications PhD students would mention someone and us English comp/rhet PhD students would say “who is that?” and the communications PhD students (and the communications professor, generally speaking) would say “you don’t know who ‘so-and-so’ is?” Or we’d mention someone like Sharon Crowley or James Berlin, and they’d all say “who is that?”
  • The second course, “Virtual Worlds,” seem to largely be about Second Life. I’m sure that Alex will make it a fine experience, but so far, I haven’t had the patience to deal with the Second Life experience. Maybe if I spent a bit more time, or maybe, now that I have a much better computer than the last time I tried it, it might be worthwhile. And I can easily imagine a scenario in which something like this is useful for online teaching. But that’s a different topic than what I’m supposed to be working on this year.

Will’s birthday, part 1: Great Wolf Lodge

Will in water after slideWe’ve just finished the first part of Will’s birthday week celebrations, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. As an aside, I like to claim the idea of the “birthday week” as my own, though really, it’s something Annette S. and I were in on together. I like to drag out my birthday as long as possible, and I’ve even come close to making my own birthday week celebration stretch into a month. So far be it from me from denying my child the birthday week.

But I digress.

Part one of Will’s birthday week was an over-night stay at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, OH. This is a hotel with a water park built into the middle of it, and this particular one is on the strip of touristy stuff a couple of hours away from here near Cedar Point. Now, given that I don’t swim and just generally don’t like being in water, I personally find the idea of going to a water park about as entertaining as, um, going to a water park. But I’m happy to report that Will, his friend Eli, and Annette had a good time, and, to be honest, I had fun too.

Here’s a little movie:

A few additional random thoughts about our stay:

  • While I am certainly no specimen of fitness, many of the pale fatties walking around at this place really boosted my self-image.
  • Along these lines, it’s clear that a lot of people have made some very bad choices about tattoos.
  • I did actually spend a bit of time in the water– maybe 15, 20 minutes. I rode in the lazy river and I went down one of the water slides once. There wasn’t any water deeper than four feet, so that wasn’t an issue for me. I just don’t get into water, unless I’m bathing in it. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.
  • Happily, the kiddie-oriented water park did feature adult beverages, so as the kids played until the park closed at 10 pm, Annette and I enjoyed beers and margaritas and read magazines.

A good time by one and all.

BTW, the video was made with my flip video camera, which I am very much looking forward to taking to the “Ren Fest” this weekend. Stay tuned….

Blog communities, rules, lessons, and BAWS

I’ve had a particularly unproductive (blogs as writerly spaces project-wise) couple of weeks. This week, much of my lack of productivity has to do with much welcomed family fun, but that’s a whole different issue I’ll post about soon on my unofficial blog. But last week, I was obsessing over the conversation on EMUTalk.org that started to turn kind of ugly. The short version is that when the EMU email system crashed for a week, people who use this system were pissed off, and the ICT people weighed in. Some where helpful, some could not really understand what the big deal was, and some were just, um, jerks.

I guess I did get some useful BAWS oriented lessons out of the whole thing though. This outburst was really just one of several over the last 10 months of the site, and it prompted me to do something that I should have done a long time ago: write up some rules. These rules were largely based on other rules that I found at other places, and particularly useful was the Blogging Wikia project (specifically, the Code of Conduct project on this site), along with the codes of conduct from a few other community-oriented blogs.
Continue reading “Blog communities, rules, lessons, and BAWS”

“Very Bad Toys”

I’m not completely sure how I stumbled across this this morning, but it’s one of those funny things that keeps me reading blogs and stuff on the web, and it’s one of those things that brings back memories. The story, from something called Radar Online, is “The 10 Most Dangerous Toys of All Time.” Most of what’s featured here pre-dates me, but who can possibly forget what the article called “the granddaddy” of all most dangerous toys. A quote:

Lawn Darts, or “Jarts,” as they were marketed, would never fly in our current ultra-paranoid, safety-helmeted, Dr. Phil toy culture. Lawn darts were massive weighted spears. You threw them. They stuck where they landed. If they happened to land in your skull, well, then you should have moved. During their brief (and generally awesome) reign in 1980s suburbia, Jarts racked up 6,700 injuries and four deaths.

he best part about Jarts was that they eliminated all speculation from true outdoor fun. (Is this dangerous? Hell yes, now chuck it!) And they were equal opportunity: All it took to play lawn darts was a sweaty grip. For good measure, it was also nice to have a small sibling around to stand on the other side of the house and tell you how your throw looked (and by how much you cleared the chimney).

Ah yes, good times, good times….

BetaBloglines as your next RSS reader?

I’ve been pretty happy with Google Reader as my RSS Feed reader (and you might be able to tell, given this is my third post in a row, that I’m just catching up on that feed this morning), but I have to say that the beta version of the new reader for Bloglines looks very promising. Something to keep an eye on both for teaching and for BAWS. Via TechCrunch.

What it might look like if people who hate social networking got together

Via TechCrunch comes “NOSO,” or “No Social,” a relief from the social networking experience. The video on the site explains the details, but basically, the NOSO is a way to organize a group of people who agree to make no connections and to disengage from their various Web 2.0 networks for a set period of time.

Obviously, it’s a bit of a goofy art project. Still, as someone who has found himself rather distracted from his scholarship by online events this last week, a little NOSO-ing might not be a bad idea.